Residents in Tonabrocky are up in arms over a decision taken by Galway City Council to include on the Draft City Development Plan the opening of a mosque at a residential property in Mincloon – this despite the move contravening local development and planning regulations.
The proposed mosque, which would also serve as the residence of the Muslim Community’s spiritual leader, undermines senior planners in city hall according to local residents.
Director of Services for Galway City Council, Joe O’Neill had urged members of the council not to vote against the recommendations of city planners, but they failed to heed his advice at meeting in July on the Draft City Development Plan when they voted to allow the house to be used as a place of worship.
“Effectively they want to change the use of a house to a place of worship,” said Mr O’Neill at the time. “It puts the planning process head over heels – there are no limitations as to what this could mean.”
According to local residents, this is not an issue of religious freedom but concern about the more practical aspects of situating a place of worship in an area that they believe to be “totally unsuitable”.
“This issue has nothing to do with multiculturalism,” said a representative of those campaigning against the proposal. “It has to do with safe planning, safe roads, protecting all of the people of Galway and not just some of the people.”
According to that same representative, the location would be “dangerous” given that it is just 20 metres from an accident-prone crossroads.
She criticised the owners of the mosque for ignoring a previous rejection of planning permission and continuing to hold prayer meetings at the site – something that she believed councillors should have taken into account.
“It is not the purpose of the Galway City Development plan to undermine the senior planners in the City Council, which is what is being done here.
“The applicant has failed to get planning on this site and therefore very discreetly decided to use the City Development Plan as a means to get what he failed to achieve through the normal process.
“What I find very upsetting is that some councillors in voting in favour of this have promoted this type of action and are setting a precedence. They are misusing the Development Plan to get around the planning laws,” she added.
Residents have lambasted the City Council for their lack of consultation with the local community – asserting that they only found out about the plans upon reading the Galway City Tribune.
For residents, “councillors need to see sense” as the area has “no street lights, no footpaths and the roads cannot take the volume of traffic that this would bring”.
“It’s a disgrace that city councillors don’t adhere to local regulations and vote in favour for a place of worship in an agricultural area – Is it for more votes?
“We’ve no objection to any religion, however, it’s an agricultural area which already suffers with too much traffic on our roads.”
Residents have claimed that councillors previously had little information on the proposal and hoped that they would reverse the decision when they meet to finalise the City Development Plan at the end of this month.
“We would hope that the councillors would do the right thing,” said the representative.